By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE TNT KaTropa remained on the top of the heap in the ongoing Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup after notching their fifth win in as many games with a hard-earned 103-100 victory over the Northport Batang Pier on Wednesday at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
Riding on the strong efforts of import KJ McDaniels and Troy Rosario down the stretch, the KaTropa (5-0) were able to extricate themselves from the tough stand given by the Batang Pier (1-4) to stay unscathed in the season-ending PBA tournament.
Mr. McDaniels finished with 30 points and 18 rebounds to pace TNT with Mr. Rosario adding 22 points, majority of which coming in the pivotal fourth quarter.
The KaTropa got off to a strong start with Mr. McDaniels on the lead.
They raced to a 20-9 advantage with 3:23 left in the opening quarter before settling for a narrower separation of 24-18 after the first canto.
In the second quarter, the Batang Pier tried to gain some traction early but TNT was steady in fending them off.
TNT held a 10-point advantage, 41-31, midway into the frame, and continued to hold command, 46-38, at the break.
Northport would unleash a ferocious run in the third canto with Garvo Lanete, import Mychal Ammons and Paolo Taha conspiring to lead their charge.
It opened the quarter with a 23-13 run to claim a 61-59 advantage by the 6:03 mark.
The two teams went back and forth after then had the Batang Pier sailed to a strong finish to the quarter to hold a five-point lead, 70-65, heading into the final frame.
Swinging the momentum in its favor, Northport started the fourth period with added bounce to its game.
They stretched its lead to nine points, 82-73, in the first three minutes.
Mr. McDaniels though racked up four straight points to narrow the gap to 82-77 a minute later.
The KaTropa kept the pressure on the Batang Pier, coming to within a point, 87-86, with 5:42 to go after a triple from Mr. Rosario.
Northport continued to have its head afloat, 97-94, by the 2:26 mark.
TNT would seize the lead, 98-97, on a Jayson Castro jumper with 1:42 remaining but it was answered by Kevin Ferrer with a triple 10 seconds later to give Northport the lead back, 100-98.
Mr. Rosario would not let the KaTropa to be down too long as he hit a triple with 1:07 left to push his team ahead, 101-100.
Northport sued for time after to set up a play but it proved to be futile as Sean Anthony’s drive to the basket failed to draw a deuce.
TNT tried to build on their lead after but was foiled by the Northport defense.
The Batang Pier then fashioned an attack to get the lead back but they too could not complete their thrusts with attempts by Messrs. Ferrer and Ammons not going through.
Northport still tried to pick up the win but two made free throws by Mr. Rosario with 1.7 seconds gave TNT more breathing space.
Mr. Anthony had one last shot to tie the game but his three-point attempt only hit the front iron to preserve the win for the KaTropa.
Also finishing in double digits for TNT was Roger Pogoy who had 17 points with Mr. Castro and Don Trollano adding 10 apiece.
For Northport, which slid to its fourth straight defeat following the loss to TNT, it was Mr. Lanete who top-scored with 23 markers, going 5-of-7 from three-point land.
Mr. Ammons had 14 points and 13 rebounds while Robert Bolick and Mr. Taha adding 12 and 10 points, respectively.